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Gary Johnson
Date of birth: August 31, 1952 (1952-08-31) (age 57)
Place of birth: Shreveport, Louisiana
Career information
Position(s): Defensive Tackle
College: Grambling
NFL Draft: 1975 / Round: 1/ Pick 8
 As player:
San Diego Chargers
San Francisco 49ers
Career highlights and awards
  • All-Pro: (1980, 1981, 1982)
  • Pro Bowl selection: (1980, 1981, 1982, 1983)
  • 1975 All-Rookie team
Playing stats at
College Football Hall of Fame

Gary "Big Hands" Johnson (born August 31, 1952 in Shreveport, Louisiana) is a former American football player. He is a graduate from Charlotte Mitchell High School in Bossier City, Louisiana, and from Grambling State University who played pro football from 1975–1985, the first nine years with the San Diego Chargers.

When Johnson was in the 8th grade, he wanted to pick up a basketball in his P.E. class when his coach said, "Get your big hands off my basketball." The nickname "Big Hands" was born.[1]

NFL career

Johnson was drafted in the 1st round with the 8th overall pick by the Chargers in 1975 and was named to the NFL All-Rookie team. In 1980 he led the NFL with 17-1/2 sacks, which is still a Chargers' team record. That year, Johnson teamed with fellow 1975 Chargers' draftees Fred Dean and Louie Kelcher as the Chargers led the NFL in sacks (60). Johnson and Dean were named 1st-team All-Pro, with Kelcher being named 2nd-team All-Pro. The trio, along with Leroy Jones formed a defensive frontline that was locally nicknamed the Bruise Brothers, coined from a popular act at the time, The Blues Brothers.

Johnson again was named 1st team All-Pro in 1981, and was 2nd team All-Pro in 1982. He was on Pro Bowl teams from 1980–1983. Don "Air" Coryell's Chargers teams of that era are mostly remembered for its high-scoring, pass-oriented offense. The Chargers won the AFC West from 1979-1981 and made the playoffs in 1982.

In 1997 he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. In 1999 he was inducted into the San Diego Chargers Hall of Fame.


  1. ^ Magee, Jerry (2007-02-12). "You gotta hand it to legendary Johnson". The San Diego Union Tribune. Retrieved 2008-10-23.  


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